The word eucalyptus comes from the Greek roots meaning “well covered”. While this name was given to the plant due the covered nature of its flowers, it is quite the coincidence that eucalyptus contains some of the most well covered compounds in natural science. Here we will outline a history of the eucalyptus genus of plants, including historical and modern uses. We will dive into the many uses of Eucalyptus essential oil, and provide some tried and true recipes for utilizing the benefits of eucalyptus essential oil.
First, a History of Eucalyptus Essential Oil
First categorized in the 18th century, the term “eucalyptus” refers to a genus of over 700 different plants. Mostly native to Australia and Tasmania, eucalyptus has been used for centuries for its numerous health benefits. The indigenous peoples of Australia use the wood of the tree to make tools, the bark to make boats, and the leaves are even used to make a poison for fishing in water holes.
In the animal kingdom, it is estimated that 20% of Australia’s mammals live in trees. As Eucalyptus trees form the majority of the forests in Australia, they provide much of this shelter. The leaves also provide food to cockatoos, insects, and of course, koalas.
A strange feature of eucalyptus trees, the oil from the leaves of the trees vaporizes and rises above the bush on warm days. This oil is highly flammable. In fact, on rather hot days, Eucalyptus trees have been known to burst into flames due to the ignition of this expelled oil. While the effect might be startling, eucalyptus trees are adapted to fire. Some actually require it in order to speed their growth and germinate their seeds.
In addition to their obvious use as great firewood, modern Australians see the eucalyptus trees as a good source of timber. Used as building materials and to make furniture, the abundant source of lumber also creates byproducts which are used for pulp wood. However, quite possibly the most versatile product created from the tree is eucalyptus essential oil.
What's In Eucalyptus Essential Oil?
Steam distilled from the leaves of the Eucalyptus globulus tree, Eucalyptus oil has been used for centuries. Native Australians use the oil as a medicinal cure all, and it is easy to see why. The many beneficial compounds within eucalyptus oil have contributed to modern medical science in amazing ways. It seems the more eucalyptus essential oil is studied, the more benefits are found.
Main Constituents of Eucalyptus
The main component in Eucalyptus essential oil is cineole. 1,8 cineole to be exact. Though the exact number ranges, eucalyptus oil is composed of 60-80% cineole. Another key compound is a-pinene, which contributes to eucalyptus oil as a disinfectant and deodorant. Generally making up 9% of the oil, a-pinene is considered one of the main active constituents. Another compound, d-limonene, has shown promise in the fight against cancer. One study found the compound to have noted chemopreventive activity against certain types of cancer. Trace amounts of camphor are also found in the oil, as well as other components such as b-pinene, a-phellandrene, and trace amounts of sabenine. Let’s go over the most promising studies on the different compounds in eucalyptus essential oil, and figure out what they mean for you.
In The Body
In a promising publication on Eucalyptus oil, the authors noted the oil’s antiviral benefit as well as capability to reduce respiratory symptoms when inhaled. These benefits are due in large part to the high amount of cineole. The compound is a potent anti-inflammatory, which has shown promise in reducing many respiratory issues.
Cineole is the main constituent in the oil extracted from the Eucalyptus globulus tree. Fittingly known as Eucalyptol, Cineole makes up about 60-70% of eucalyptus oil. In a recent study, it was found that cineole reduces symptoms of COPD. The study was done over a period of 6 months; the findings were in favor of cineole as an active controller of airway inflammation. Its benefit as a mucolytic agent acts to increase lung function and quality of life in patients with this degenerative pulmonary disorder.
Another promising study linked cineole to a reduction in bronchial asthma symptoms. The active ingredient of the drug studied was cineole, and its application was shown to ameliorate bacteria produced mucus. What is also of note here is the study found a topical application of cineole may reduce mucus hypersecretion. To enjoy the benefits of cineole topically, dilute Eucalyptus essential oil in carrier oil and rub on your sinuses, chest, and upper lip as needed for relief.
The main component of eucalyptus oil, cineole, can also treat acute Rhinositis. In this double blind study, subjects who had symptoms of Rhinositis (the main group of viruses which cause the common cold) were treated with cineole. Over the course of the testing, these subjects reported amelioration of their symptoms. This is great news if you are trying to cure the cold naturally.
Immune System Support
In addition to the effects of cineole on congestion, Eucalyptus essential oil boosts the immune system. This study concluded that eucalyptus oil was able to positively regulate the immune system of the body. This is big news for people with weakened immune systems, or even just those needing a boost during a time when your immune system may be overloaded.
In another promising study, Eucalyptus oil supports the immune system through its antimicrobial action and anti-inflammatory properties. The oil was also found to reduce myelotoxicity of at least one chemotherapy agent. Whether it offsets the activity of the agent is yet to be seen, though this is promising news for chemotherapy patients seeking relief from the side effects of the practice.
The anti-inflammatory capabilities of eucalyptus essential oil are a bit staggering. A highly promising study found that eucalyptus essential oil is effective at reducing pain and inflammation in in osteoarthritis sufferers. Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent disorder in the musculoskeletal system, most commonly affecting the knee. It is marked by frequent pain and inflammation. The study focused on patients who had undergone total knee replacement due to osteoarthritis. Patients who were given a 30 minute aromatherapy session of eucalyptus essential oil on three consecutive days were then tested against a control group. The patients who received the aromatherapy session using eucalyptus oil showed significant decreases in inflammation and pain levels.
You don’t have to wait for a new knee to benefit from the anti-inflammatory effect of eucalyptus essential oil. A few drops of oil in a room diffuser can enter the bloodstream; dilating the blood vessels and reducing inflammation throughout the body.
The functions of eucalyptus essential oil as an antioxidant are outstanding. One study claims eucalyptus reduces kidney damage, particularly in subjects with acetaminophen-induced damage. Acetaminophen has been linked to increased levels of creatinine and urea and decreased levels of proteins and beneficial uric acid in the blood. Another study shows a direct link between the level of eucalyptus oil present in a solution and a reduction of free radicals. The free radical scavenging activity of eucalyptus oil increased as its concentration did, and was effective in both the nitric oxide test and the DPPH method.
As we know, eucalyptus oil acts as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic in the body. The compounds within the oil reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis and rheumatism, much the same way as over the counter medications. A promising study noted that an aromatherapy mixture, which included Eucalyptus oil, has a significant effect in reducing pain and depression in the lives of patients living with arthritis. When used in conjunction with other beneficial essential oils for arthritis, a synergistic effect can occur, enhancing the components of all oils used.
For The Brain
The cooling, refreshing scent of eucalyptus essential oil has a stimulating effect on the mind. The compounds in the oil are vasodilators; they increase blood flow throughout the body by relaxing the blood vessels, allowing more blood to circulate. A fresh supply of blood entering the brain brings more oxygen. The effect of this is a lighter, more alert state of mind; free from stress and mental sluggishness. A drop of oil applied to a cotton ball can be gently smelled throughout the day whenever you need a mental pick me up.
On The Skin
The native Australians knew of the power within eucalyptus oil. The leaves, rich in oil, were crushed and made into a poultice to treat wounds. Medical science is now coming to these same conclusions, only centuries later. A recent study found eucalyptus essential oil kills staph and E. coli. The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli are together attributed to thousands of hospitalizations and deaths. These bacteria are usually attacked with antibiotics-the downside of which is that antibiotics are the equivalent of dropping a nuclear bomb on the bacteria in your body. The effects of some antibiotics stay in the body system for up to 4 years.
Thanks in part to a more educated consumer; Natural alternatives to antibiotics are in very high demand. Eucalyptus oil is one such natural alternative, and shows positive results in handling some of the most stubborn bacterial strains.
The refreshing feeling you get when you breathe in eucalyptus oil can also be felt on the skin. It has the power to relax the body and reduce pain in sore or tight muscles. For this reason, eucalyptus oil makes a great addition to any muscle rub. Some of the volatile compounds within Eucalyptus essential oil are also potent analgesics. For instance, 1,8 cineole, the active compound in eucalyptus oil, reduces sensitivity to pain stimuli in test subjects, according to this recent study.
In the realm of fungal treatment, it is high time to ditch those foot sprays and powders for a more natural alternative. A new study has found eucalyptus oil to be an effective antifungal. In addition to this study supporting eucalyptus oil’s role as an E.coli eliminator, it found that compounds within eucalyptus can eliminate the fungi associated with athlete’s foot.
The stress from the daily life can make you feel like you are losing your hair-or maybe you actually ARE losing your hair. Either way, Eucalyptus oil can help. The same stimulating effects which dialate the blood vessels and freshen the skin can also stimulate the hair follicles. An oil treatment, outlined below, can be used weekly to improve the strength and number of your precious hairs.
As you shift to living a more holistic lifestyle, there is always one roadblock everyone hits-body odor. Luckily, the life-saving antibacterial properties of eucalyptus oil can also be date saving. As eucalyptus oil is a potent antibacterial, it lends itself well to natural deodorants. In fact, the compound a-pinene, found in eucalyptus, is actually found in many standard market deodorants. What’s more, of course, is that making your own deodorant reduces your carbon footprint and is much more economical than any chemical alternative. Below is a recipe for a natural deodorant with ingredients you can pronounce.
In a recent study which may have you throwing your mouthwash away, eucalyptus oil was found to be more effective than a chloride based mouthwash. The study divided two groups of people and allowed them no mechanical oral hygiene other than the given mouthwash. The group which was given the eucalyptus oil mouthwash had significantly less plaque than those who used the chloride mouthwash. They also had a larger reduction in signs of gingivitis. A simple to make mouthwash recipe is below, and it costs just pennies to create. You can even add green food coloring to make it seem more like the “real thing” if you’d like.
The recipes here are examples of how you can use eucalyptus essential oil synergistically with other oils to bring about balance naturally within the body. These recipes are optimized for quality; as such it is important to use pure essential oils when following them.
- 10 drops eucalyptus oil
- 10 drops tea tree oil
- 10 drops lavender oil
- 5 drops lemon oil
- 5 drops cedarwood oil
- Raw coconut oil
- Add the essential oils to a 2oz roller bottle. Fill to the top with coconut oil, shaking to mix well. Apply to underarms as needed. Using the base of eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, and lavender oil, try different recipes, adjusting the scent as you like. After all, you are the one who has to smell it most.
- 3 drops eucalyptus oil
- 3 drops tea tree oil
- 3 drops lime oil
- 3 drops spearmint oil
- 2tsp baking soda
- Fill a one liter bottle with clean, filtered water. Add oils and baking soda, shaking vigorously to mix well. Shake again before each use, and swish in mouth for one minute to reduce plaque and bacteria and give your mouth a fresh, tingly feeling.
- 2 drops of eucalyptus oil
- 3 drops of basil oil
- 3 drops of birch oil
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
- Apply onto sore muscles and massage as needed
- 2 drops eucalyptus oil
- 2 drops rosemary oil
- 2 drops lime oil
- 1 tablespoon argan oil
- Combine the oils in a small dish and mix with a glass rod. Pour into hands and massage into scalp once weekly, working the oils in for at least 5 minutes before washing and conditioning as usual.
Potential Side Effects
Though eucalyptus essential oil use is considered safe, there may be potentials for drug interactions. If you are already prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, are pregnant or nursing, or are taking an over the counter anti-inflammatory, talk to your health care practitioner before using eucalyptus essential oil. Most studies to date are related to topical use and inhalation of essential oils. There has been little formal research into eucalyptus essential oil consumption. Though most people experience no adverse side effects when consuming the diluted oil, you would want to minimize this, as its high potency of antioxidants can cause digestive and systematic upset.